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Morris v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

December 17, 2014


For ROBERT LEE MORRIS, Plaintiff: Geoffrey D. Allen, LEAD ATTORNEY, GEOFFREY D. ALLEN, Washington, DC.

For CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendant: Anne Marie Orcutt, Daniel P. Struck, LEAD ATTORNEY, STRUCK WIENEKE & LOVE, P.L.C., Chandler, AZ; Joseph E. Hainline, LEAD ATTORNEY, CARR MALONEY P.C., Washington, DC; Mariana Del Valle Bravo, LEAD ATTORNEY, Matthew D. Berkowitz, CARR MALONEY PC, Washington, DC; Timothy J. Bojanowski, STRUCK, WIENEKE & LOVE, P.L.C., Chandler, AZ.

Page 458


CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

Former inmate Robert Morris claims he suffered a burn to his groin from scalding water while showering at the Correctional Treatment Facility (" CTF" ) in Washington, D.C. He has brought suit against the prison's parent company, the Corrections Corporation of America (" CCA" ), alleging that its negligent maintenance of the shower facility caused his injury. CCA moves for summary judgment, and Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, to whom the case was referred for pre-trial proceedings, has recommended granting CCA's motion. Because Morris has not offered evidence enabling a reasonable jury to find that the shower caused his injury or that the prison knew of a dangerous condition, the Court will adopt the Magistrate Judge's recommendation and grant summary judgment in favor of CCA.

I. Background

Robert Morris alleges that in September 2012 he suffered a burn to his scrotum when the water temperature in a prison shower spiked inexplicably. Pl. Ex. 2 Affidavit of Robert Morris (" Morris Aff." ) ¶ ¶ 1-2. According to Morris, he leapt from the shower immediately after the water temperature changed and suffered no injuries to any other portion of his body. Def. Statement of Material Facts (" DSOF" ) Ex. 1 Deposition of Robert Morris (" Morris Depo." ) at 40:1-5, 44:1-13. Dr. Andrew Catanzaro examined Morris soon after the alleged incident, writing that Morris complained of " 1 week of scrotal pain" and that the area had " red skin, no breakdown[, n]o induration, no burned skin on thighs." DSOF Ex. B at 1-2. Dr.

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Catanzaro diagnosed Morris with dermatitis and eczema due to exposure to chemical products and opined that the injury was " unlikely due to second degree burns." Id. Another doctor saw Morris three days later and diagnosed a " 1st maybe 2nd degree scrotal burn" with redness and slight blistering. Pl. Ex. 3 at 4. A third doctor incorrectly recorded that Morris' initial diagnosis had been " second degree burns due to blistering of the skin." Id. at 5. Within a few weeks of first reporting the injury, Morris reported it had healed. Id. at 11. Morris submitted an informal complaint to CTF, alleging that he was burned by the shower and followed it with a formal grievance. Def. Ex. 6 Affidavit of J. Allen, CTF Facilities Grievance Coordinator (" Allen Aff." ) Ex. A, B. After CTF denied both claims, Morris brought suit against CTF's parent company, CCA, in District of Columbia Superior Court. CCA removed the action to this Court, which referred it to Magistrate Judge Robinson for all matters excluding trial. CCA has now moved for summary judgment on Morris' sole count. Magistrate Judge Robinson recommends that CCA's motion be granted. Report and Recommendation, Oct. 29, 2014.

II. Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence in the record demonstrates that " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). When evaluating motions for summary judgment, " the court shall grant summary judgment only if . . . the moving part[y] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law upon material facts that are not genuinely disputed." Select Specialty Hosp. - Bloomington, Inc. v. Sebelius, 774 F.Supp.2d 332, 338 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The court must accept as true the evidence of, and draw " all justifiable inferences" in favor of, the party opposing summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (citation omitted). A genuine issue exists only where " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The nonmoving party may not rely solely on unsubstantiated allegations or conclusory statements. See Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675, 334 U.S.App.D.C. 92 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

III. Analysis

Morris' complaint contains a single count of negligence. Negligence under District of Columbia law requires the plaintiff to prove: " (1) the defendant owed a duty [of care] to the plaintiff, (2) the defendant breached its duty, (3) and that breach was the proximate cause of (4) damages sustained by the plaintiff." Busby v. Capital One, N.A.,772 F.Supp.2d 268, 283 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Powell v. District of Columbia,634 A.2d 403, 406 (D.C. 1993)). CCA contends that Morris has not offered any evidence of the standard of care governing CTF's duty to maintain its showers and ...

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